Archive for February, 2009

27
Feb
09

North American F-86A-L Sabre in USAF and Foreign Service

North American Aviation, after producing the outstanding American fighter of World War II in its P-51 Mustang, followed up this success when it entered the jet propulsion field and turned out the F-86 Sabre, which went on to become the best fighter of the Korean conflict. Like the P-51, which owed its existence to the R.A.F., the F-86 likewise owed its design to another service, in this case the U.S. Navy. North America’s first jet design (NA-134) which had begun in the fall of 1944 was intended to be a carrier fighter. The Navy placed an order for three prototypes of the XFJ-1 on 1st January, 1945. This was the first order that North American had ever received from the Navy for a fighter. A design study was initiated on 22nd November, 1944 (as RD-1265), by North American with the goal of producing a new design based on the NA-134 which would interest the Air Force. It was hoped that the elimination of the specialized equipment required by the Navy might improve performances enough to attract Air Force interest. This design, the NA-140, resulted in an order for three prototype aircraft to be designated the XP-86 by the Air Force.

27
Feb
09

North American B25A-J Mitchell

North American Aviation’s Model NA-40 was conceived as a result of a 1938 Army Air Corps requirement for a twin-engined attack bomber. The design proved to be an unsuccessful one in the competition, but when another Army proposal was issued in 1939 for a twin-engined medium bomber, North American brought out the NA-62. This was simply a redesign of the NA-40 to meet certain new specifications called for by the Army. The NA-40 had been an all metal high-wing monoplane with a low-slung tricycle landing gear which gave it a squat appearance on the ground. The co-pilot was seated behind the pilot in a greenhouse that was reminiscent of the old Martin B-10. A large glassed-in nose section provided the bombardier-navigator with ample room to operate his bombsight and the single .30 calibre Browning machine gun provided for defence against frontal attacks. Additional guns were proposed, with four fixed .30’s in the wing plus a mid-upper position in the fuselage, as well as a gun mounted in the floor to the rear of the ship. Five hundred rounds per gun were provided for and provision for 1,200 pounds of bombs in several combinations of weights and sizes completed the armament. Fowered by two Pratt & Whitney R.1830-S6C3-G Twin Wasps rated at 1,100 horse-power each, the plane had a top speed of 265 miles per hour and grossed out at 19,500 pounds. Fuel capacity was 476 gallons.
A successful first flight was made in January of 1939 with North American test pilot Paul Balfour at the controls.

27
Feb
09

Nakajima Ki.44, Shoki Ia,b,c IIa,b,c in Japanese Army Air Force Service

Lifting off from hand-built Chinese airfields under the orders of their newly appointed youthful commander, thirty-seven-year-old Major General Curtis Le-May, the massive B-29 Superfortresses of the 468th Very Heavy Bombardment Group of the USAAF 20th Bomber Command fell in line overhead and turned to the north-east. The date was 26 September 1944 and the target was the Showa steel producing complex at Anshan, Manchoukuo. It was the ninth B-29 raid of a long war, and the test of new tactics against intercepting fighters after the frightful loss of 14 bombers out of 72 over Yawata, Japan, in the seventh raid over a month earlier, followed by the further loss of three bombers out of 90 over Anshan in the unit’s eighth raid on 8 September. The lessons of defeat were to be applied with the largest concentration of bombers-over-target of any raid since the B-29 bombings began from Chinese bases in June. With 109 bombers airborne it was to be a rehearsal for the coming battle for Japan. Far to the north, on their largely untested and unoccupied airfields in Manchoukuo, the pilots of the 59th Fighter and 70th Fighter Air Combat Regiments of the Japanese Army Air Force were itchy for action. Unit after unit had been pulled out of Manchoukuo over the years, with hundreds of Army pilots lost in the bloody maw of New Guinea. In the summer of 1944 more transfers were made to reinforce the Philippines against an anticipated Allied invasion, while other units were returned to the treasured homeland itself to protect the skies of Japan. The JAAF had been preparing itself for years to protect the Emperor and the Imperial family, as well as the nation and the Asiatic mainland against the intrusion of non-Asiatics.

27
Feb
09

Mitsubishi Nakajima G3M1-2-3 Kusho L3Y1-2 in Japanese Naval Air Service

Capt. Kameo Sonokawa glanced at his watch. Almost nine o’clock. It had been a long and frustrating morning. Lifting from their airfields at Thudaumot and Soctrang near Saigon at sunrise on 10 December 1941, the twin-engined Mitsubishi G3M2 Models 21 and 22 high-level torpedo-bombers of the Mihoro and Genzan Naval Air Corps of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s 22nd Air Flotilla, 11th Air Fleet, as well as torpedo-equipped models of the newer Mitsubishi G4M1 bombers of the Kanoya Naval Air Corps, had fruitlessly searched for “Force Z”. Made up of the British battleships H.M.S. Repulse and H.M.S. Prince of Wales, and supported by the four destroyers H.M.S. Elecira, H.M.S. Express, H.M.S. Tenedos and H.M.A.S. Vampire, “Force Z” was the strongest surface fleet in Malayan waters. It gave the British defenders command of their shorelines, and provided the mobility to strike at any potential invasion landing points at will. This British force was recognised as the greatest single threat to Japan’s Malayan invasion plans, and would therefore be the decisive factor in the campaign. Imperial Headquarters in Tokyo was prepared for any eventuality, and had an alternative plan ready for immediate execution. In the event the going got too tough, the invading Imperial Japanese Army would retreat to the beaches to be picked up by the Imperial Japanese Navy, resisting British surface fleet attacks to the best of their ability under cover of Japanese Army and Navy aircraft flying from safe bases in Thailand and French Indo-China. The full weight of Japanese offensive power would then be thrown at the Philippines, to return to Malaya another day.

27
Feb
09

Luftwaffe Colour Schemes & Markings 1939-45 – Mainly Winter Schemes

The Luftwaffe went to war in 1939 in two basic camouflage schemes, the splinter scheme comprising black green (swarzgrun) and dark green (dunkelgrun) on the upper surfaces or upper surfaces in black green only, both with pale blue-grey (hellblau.) under surfaces. The former scheme was the more common in late 1939 early 1940, the latter scheme coming into more general use as the war progressed, though never so common as the former. The first major change in the basic camouflage came towards the end of 1940 and was brought about through the crippling losses inflicted on Luftwaffe bomber formations by RAF fighters during their daylight attacks throughout the Battle of Britain period. With the eventual defeat of the Luftwaffe by day the bomber force was switched to night operations. With the change to night attack the pale blue-grey under surfaces were hastily covered with a coat of matt black and so far as the He 111 was concerned most of the aft fuselage between the trailing edge of the wings to the tail-plane to a line above the fuselage cross was also blacked in, as may be seen in colour side-views El and E2. The vertical tail surfaces were in many cases also given a coat of black often covering the swastika also. Upper surfaces were treated with a black squiggle pattern as were fuselage sides left in the basic scheme; national insignia on both upper and under surfaces were often either blacked out or roughly daubed over or the white angles painted in leaving just a thin white outline as illustrated in El, 2 and 3 and onthe cover background. The fuselage cross received the same treatment and in the majority of cases the code was reduced to the aircraft letter only, white and yellow letters often being blacked in leaving only a thin outline of the original colour.

27
Feb
09

Kawasaki Ki.61-Ki.100 Hien

For Lieutenant Minoru Shirota the year of decision dawned on Japan with extended rays of despair. One year ago the war front was thousands of miles away in thought and measure, with the fighting in New Guinea. But now, a short year later, the front was only thousands of feet away—straight up—as giant B-29 bombers took the measure of Japan. On 4 January 1945, Shirota finished his last words on paper, ran to his beloved Hien fighter when the alarm sounded to announce the imminent arrival of B-29’s over Nagoya, climbed high for about six minutes, sighted his foe, and dived! The excitement of being an Army pilot, the joy of flight, and the pride of nationalism all showed up in Minoru Shirota’s writing. Both pilot and author, he turned his creative talents to the pen and earned a large and enthusiastic audience throughout wartime Japan. Shirota thought of his Kawasaki Type 3 Fighter as his mount, combat as a chivalrous joust, pilots of his regiment as fellow knights of the Round Table, the air above as his life-giving environment, and the treasured islands of homeland Japan as his Camelot. Through his many printed articles in newspapers and magazines Shirota became an unofficial spokesman for the Japanese Army Air Force, and a hero to impressionable Japanese youth. His readers followed his every word, and deed.

27
Feb
09

Kawasaki Ki.48-l-ll Sokei

The cruise would make any thoughtful man worry about the progress of Imperial Japan’s war in the Pacific, and Commander Tadao Kuwahara, a reserve officer of the Japanese Navy, was concerned. But Kuwahara had other more pleasant things to think about. He was back at sea, once again a ship master in command of the Nitta-Maru, one of the luxurious pre-war tour vessels of the N.Y.K. line. Only this time the hull was camouflaged, the envied passenger quarters had been gutted, and the deck was flat. Even the name of the vessel had been changed, for now it was the Chuyo, a 17,830 ton converted liner that came out of the Kure Navy Yard in November 1942 as an auxiliary aircraft carrier. Strapped securely to its flight deck was a varied assortment of Japanese army and navy aircraft, including a dozen or more Ki.48 Type 99 two-engine light bombers of the 208th Light Bomber Air Combat Regiment, an aircraft more commonly known by the brief title of 99 Sokei. The short days of February 1943 began to lengthen as the Chuyo ploughed south on this voyage from the Empire to Truk in the Caroline Islands, the Japanese Navy’s largest base outside of the homeland, and headquarters for the Imperial Navy’s defence of the Central Pacific. There was no escaping the fact that Truk was naval territory, and the aircraft on board were army, and short-ranged. So short-ranged in fact, that it required carriers to bring them south. They obviously would not stay at Truk, and it was well known that the Imperial Navy was responsible for the operations further south in the Solomons and New Guinea. Moving army air south could only mean one thing. Trouble.